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Regional Forestry Framework

Regional Forestry Framework logo

Mid-America Regional Council, in partnership with the Kansas Forest Service and the Missouri Department of Conservation, completed a regional forestry assessment for the nine-county Kansas City metropolitan area in 2011. This assessment demonstrates the substantial monetary value of trees and forests (“forests”) in urban, suburban and rural areas alike that is, $233 million in annual ecosystem benefits resulting from air quality protection, carbon sequestration and energy conservation. Regional studies, like that carried out by MARC, demonstrate that area forests contribute to high quality of life providing substantial economic, ecologic, and community benefits.

How then can the Kansas City region best conserve and restore healthy area forests? First, an aspirational goal to increase canopy coverage by 10% over twenty-five years will serve to galvanize regional and local efforts. Second, the proposed policy and planning framework offers a flexible set of strategies at the regional and local levels to conserve and enhance forest health in the Kansas City region in service of the overall goal. Achievement of this goal would increase air pollution removal from 26,000 tons per year to 46,000 tons per year, a net gain of $151 million in annual benefits. Third, short term implementation of four key stakeholder priorities will serve to catalyze long-term support for additional focus and investment.

The framework is the product of input and participation of over 300 foresters, local government representatives, not-for-profit organizations and other interested community members. Community support for such recommendations is rooted in strong historical support for local forests, as reflected by the 36 area communities that boast of a Tree City USA designation.

The framework builds upon the adopted regional vision that “Greater Kansas City is a sustainable region that increases the vitality of our society, economy and environment for current residents and future generations”. A set of integrated strategies are identified to support work at the regional scale, in diverse sectors from air and water quality, transportation, energy and parks. At the local scale, the framework is organized to provide a variety of flexible tools that local communities might employ to advance a sustainable forest and green infrastructure conservation agenda. Opportunities are grouped into four principle categories: policy and planning; design; operations and maintenance; and community engagement and education.
 

The completed regional forestry assessment report quantifies the structure, function and value of trees and forests in the metropolitan Kansas City region. It found that the region’s estimated 249,450,000 trees provide extraordinary environmental benefits, including:

  • Mitigating 37,000 tons of air pollution per year (valued at $286 million/year)
  • Reducing building energy costs by $14 million/year
  • Sequestering 1 million tons/year of carbon (valued at $20.7 million/year)

MARC is working with regional stakeholders to develop a strategy for facilitating more sustainable forest management in communities throughout the metro area. The plan framework explores local and regional opportunities and is built upon two key notions:

  1. Trees and forests are integral or required elements of community infrastructure. They are perhaps the only type of infrastructure whose value increases over time.
  2. Efforts to conserve and restore area forests will depend on local policies and actions. The framework structure will provide a wide variety of strategies that may be tailored to fit the varied needs, interests and capabilities of area communities.

 Opportunities consist of four principal categories:

  • Policy tools
  • Planning and design strategies
  • Forest Management Practices
  • Community engagement and education efforts